DMA Urges Senate to Provide Greater Flexibility Regarding Consumer Notification of Hazardous Products
March 5, 2008 — In a letter to Senate Leadership and members of the Senate Commerce Committee this week, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) made clear its support for effective notification policies to protect children’s health and safety, but noted its opposition to provisions in the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act (S. 4050). DMA believes the current language in the Senate version of the legislation does not provide the most efficient means of notifying consumers of hazards and is simply unworkable in some contexts.
The provisions, found in Section 11 of the bill, would require manufacturers, distributors, or retailers of children’s toys that contain small parts that pose specific hazards to children to include warnings on or immediately adjacent to the products’ descriptions within catalogs and on the Internet.
“DMA fails to see how additional requirements mandating lengthy disclosures within product descriptions in catalogs and on the Internet would further enhance consumer safety and a greater protection of children,” wrote Jerry Cerasale, DMA’s senior vice president of government affairs. “Among DMA’s catalog members, such a requirement would be completely unworkable within the context of this marketing medium due to space and cost constraints. For products with multiple warning requirements, the text required to describe and warn customers about each product would be excessive and confusing for consumers without significant benefit.”
The current hazard warning disclosures were created by experts in consumer safety. In creating the most effective means of notice, all products deemed hazardous are now required to provide written notices directly on products through labeling or in material accompanying the product.
The US House of Representatives’ version of the bill (H.R. 4040) would require the CPSC to consider important issues — such as placement and size of warnings — through their own rulemaking process.
“DMA believes a one-size-fits-all requirement would be counter productive,” Cerasale said. “Legislation that provides greater flexibility — not less flexibility — in notice requirements can be much more helpful to parents and marketers alike. Moreover, congressional provisions would be inconsistent with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidance regarding evaluation of the ‘clear and conspicuous’ standard in online advertisements.”
According to DMA, the FTC has acknowledged the important role that hyperlinks and other technologies play where disclosures may be too detailed to be effectively included in certain ads, but the proposed legislation does not recognize this reality.
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